In a world made deaf by hatred, who will listen to the messenger?
Severine’s life has never been easy, but it ends the day her family is murdered. Being part of the loving gypsy-like community of gay Travelers has always marked her as an outsider, but being female, puts her in mortal danger. Women are scarce, precious, and hunted.
When chance brings Severine face to face with the father she has never met, he sends her to the sanctuary he has carved out in the mountains for his women and children. But there is no safety in a world broken by war and sickness and when violence follows her, Severine flees north in search of a home amongst her mother’s people.
It has been years since the north has welcomed outsiders with anything but bullets, and to survive, Severine must learn to use her enemies’ weapons against them. As the stakes rise, she comes to understand the horror of her mother’s loss, and what drove her father north seventeen years before. His quest becomes hers, but she hasn’t counted on the savage legacy that war and sickness have left behind, or on falling in love.
Can Severine succeed where her father failed? Or will her fate prove even deadlier than his? If you enjoy your fantasy set in brilliant new worlds, with characters you really care about, and just the right dash of romance, you will love Messenger.
Around 2007, I read an article about the ratio of baby boys to baby girls being born in China. The article suggested that, like a number of other cultures, Chinese families favored sons over daughters, and since the introduction of China's One-Child Policy, the number of baby boys surviving infancy was far greater than the number of baby girls. It suggested the imbalance was due to the abortion and abandonment of baby girls, and the failure to seek medical care when they fell ill. It also suggested that, in the future, millions of Chinese men wouldn't be able to find a wife. A recent survey (2018) of Google articles on the subject, suggests the sex ratio in China is now 115.4 men to 100 women, and that 6 million men between the ages of 30-39 will be unable to marry.
The 2007 article made me wonder whether women would be in a more powerful position in a society if they were scarce. In terms of China in 2018, it seems educated women are, being highly selective in their choice of husbands (with high male incomes being mandatory). It also suggests that men excluded from marriage on the basis of income, especially poorly educated men, might turn to 'brides' procured through kidnap and sex-trafficking, often from poorer, neighboring countries. In short, the empowerment of women seems to be restricted to women who, through education and family, are already empowered, and that women from poorer families, particularly in neighboring countries, are the most vulnerable to losing the little power they have.
I wrote Messenger (originally called Avatar - a title I had to change after the movie Avatar was released in 2009)to explore how women would fare in a world where they were scarce. I decided that, as women are generally less powerful than men, they were likely to remain so, regardless of their number. While female scarcity and power were the initiating ideas behind Avatar/Messenger, I also wanted to explore how individuals of goodwill might work together to build a better world.
The Secondary World
Messenger takes place in a world deeply damaged by years of war, and while historically, 'weapons rained from the sky', what emerged from the ruins, was a pre-industrial society, reliant on horses and wagons for transport, with remnant caches of guns and bullets turning up, but with the usual weapons of warfare being knives. The naming conventions (Indian and English/Biblical), and the religious references (Vishnu and Christ) suggest a society with both Hindu and Christian origins but I don't provide a detailed history of the world Abram, Shanandra, Severine, and Jeph inherit.
Messenger begins with Shanandra playing the harp to Abram in Andhaka, and what she says to him then, that the winds of love can play the harp in her absence, is a motif that occurs later in the story. The music that fits, Carolan's Dream, is played by Mark Harmer. As noted by Harmer: Turlough O'Carolan was an Irish harpist who lived in the mid-1600s and wrote pieces for the people he met and stayed with - playing music in exchange for hospitality. Tradition has it that the harp was played last thing at night, before people went to bed.
Messenger explores the notion that a better world can only be built if those of good will unite, regardless of their differences. The world of Messenger is one of separation and exclusion. Women are excluded from power by being rare, desirable, and vulnerable. Abram secures his women and children in the Enclaves to protect them; the Andhakans use the outer and inner walls of their city; and the whores are confined by the Ruins. Being outsiders, they are the only women to have autonomy.
The Travelers are outsiders too but exclude others. While they provide a refuge for men (and boys) expelled from the Mobs on the basis of sexuality, refusal to kill, or nonconformity, the Travelers in turn exclude women and heterosexual men.
The ultimate outsider in Messenger is Severine, and thus she is uniquely placed to be the harbinger of change. A female of mixed race parentage, raised by Travelers, and having lived in the Mob's Stockade, the Enclaves, and in Andhaka, she achieves what Abram failed to.
Severine inherits her father's fighting spirit, her mother's mindspeaking skills, and from the Travelers who raised her, an understanding of the true depth and breadth of love, which in turn, allows her to open Jeph to love. Severine can't achieve her quest to unite the north and south without Jeph's help, and Jeph can't become a whole human being without Severine's. Together they accomplish what their respective fathers couldn't.
Motifs in Messenger include the wild packs of once domesticated dogs and cats (symbolic of the breakdown of the former society); the empty shells of houses in Andhaka (reflecting the city's dead heart); and the goddess Kali, represented by the storms She sends, that force Jeph to open himself to love.